By Sumayyah Bhatti
SOME OF the highest-paid business leaders in Leeds slept rough in sleeping bags at Headingley Stadium to raise awareness for homeless charities on Monday.
St George’s Crypt and Leeds Rhinos Foundation worked alongside the CEO Sleepout team to organise the event.
Twenty business leaders took part in the sleepout, each aiming to raise £1,000 to raise awareness for St George’s Crypt and the work they do to help the homeless.
Organisers said the main reason the event involved business leaders was because they were more likely to spread the message, reach more people and encourage them to support the cause.
It was the first ever CEO Sleepout to take place in Leeds, with chief executive officers giving up their comfort for a night, to help others.
Next year, it is hoped more business leaders, chief executives and directors will take part in the event.
Lord Mayor of Leeds, Jane Dawson, said: “We are here to help a group of people who are often forgotten in Leeds.
“If you suffer from mental health, drinking problems, if life doesn’t treat us well, it could happen to any one of us.
“On behalf of Leeds, which is a great city, we have people who have prepared to put themselves out for others.”
More than 4,100 people sleep rough on the streets in the UK every night.
Over the past two years, the figures for Yorkshire and Humber have fluctuated but the situation has gradually become worse, and there are thought to be 20 people sleeping rough in Leeds.
And over the past year, St. George’s crypt has given temporary emergency accommodation to 922 individuals.
Sue Watson, managing director of Watson Associates said: “Having returned from working in India for a month, seeing the level of homelessness and poverty broke my heart.
“When I was emailed about the charity sleep out, I thought I could do this.”
Dino Watson, 37, a homeless man said: “I ended up on the street because my landlord found out about me keeping a dog in the house, which was not allowed.
“There was no other accommodation available for me as they would not accept the dog.”
Phil Caplan, chairman of Leeds Rhinos Foundation, said: “It’s all down to desperation, people sleep out because they have to – not because they want to.
“The idea of the sleepout was to highlight the work of St George’s Crypt, to point out to homeless people that there is help available for them and they won’t be judged.
“It did give us a reality check and the things we take for granted. Making tiny sacrifices shows how we lose perspective in life and we are concerned about things that aren’t important.”